Prosecution questions police officer in Fruitvale gang injunction hearing
on March 16, 2011
After the defense in the Fruitvale gang injunction hearing spent three days questioning Oakland police officer Douglass Keely, who was involved in creating the list of the 40 alleged Norteño gang members named in the injunction, prosecutors finally got a chance to cross examine him on Tuesday. The crux of their examination involved showing the judge dozens of photos of the alleged gang members’ tattoos and gang clothing, as well as graffiti in the Fruitvale neighborhood, in an effort to demonstrate that the defendants had been correctly identified as active gang members.
The hearing for the proposed gang injunction began in mid-February. Although it was expected to only take a day or two, so far it has been drawn out for six days spread over a five-week period. This is in part due to the extensive questioning of Keely by the defense. In total, the defense has called five witnesses, including two alleged gang members, a gang injunction expert, the sister of an alleged gang member and Officer Keely. The prosecution also named Keely as one of their witnesses and brought in two additional witnesses, a tax enforcement officer for the City of Oakland and a parole agent for one of the alleged gang members.
The prosecution is hoping to convince Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman to approve a gang injunction for the Fruitvale area that would restrict alleged gang members’ movements within a defined “safety zone” in an effort to combat gang crime. Defense attorneys, who are now representing 33 of the 40 alleged gang members, say that the injunction would violate their civil liberties and lead to racial profiling and police harassment. Over the course of the hearing, the defense has attempted to show that the defendants named in the injunction are not active gang members.
Prosecuting attorney Tricia Hynes from the Meyers Nave law firm, which is representing the Oakland City Attorney’s office, began her cross examination of Keely by asking him what evidence he reviewed to identify alleged gang members. Keely said that photographs, crime reports, personal contacts, talking to rival gang members, FBI evidence and more were all taken into account. “I have a closet full of stuff that involves this case,” he said.
“Do you think this gang injunction is necessary?” asked Hynes.
“Yes, I do,” replied Keely.
Hynes then went down the list of rules the 40 alleged gang members would have to abide by if the Fruitvale gang injunction is enforced, which includes a 10 pm curfew, not wearing gang colors, not having gang tattoos, not associating with one another and obeying other restrictions within a 450-block “safety zone” in the Fruitvale neighborhood. She asked Keely to explain why he supported each of these rules.
“When criminals gather together, the more likely they are to go in criminal activity,” said Keely, explaining the reasoning behind the “no association” rule. “Later at night more crimes occur,” he said to explain the 10 pm curfew.
Hynes then asked him about the two alleged gang members who have testified during this hearing, Abel Manzo and Javier Quintero. Both men have maintained they are not gang members. Both have non-violent criminal records but have not had arrests or parole violations in recent years, according to the Oakland Police Department. But during Tuesday’s testimony, Keely said he is certain both of these men are active gang members.
Keely testified that he believes Manzo is an active gang member because he was arrested in 2004 for possession of marijuana on gang turf. Keely said that Manzo has also been seen by police officers near gang hangouts, wearing gang clothing and was nearby when an alleged Norteño was murdered. “The officer documented that he was crying,” said Keely. “Gang members become upset when other gang members get killed.”
Keely testified that he believes Quintero is an active gang member because Quintero has been seen by police officers in the presence of other alleged gang members several times over the past few years. He also testified that police officers have seen him with juveniles whom they believe Quintero urged to get involved with the Norteño gang.
During this testimony, Hynes placed a photo on the projector that showed a skinny kid with buzzed hair and a bright red sweatshirt. Keely explained that in March 2007, he found Quintero in a car with the 13 or 14-year-old shown in the photo, along with a 44 Magnum gun. Keely also explained that red is one of the Norteño gang colors. The teen became involved with the Norteños, said Keely, and the police considered this incident part of the proof that Quintero was recruiting new gang members. “These older gentlemen were a huge influence of getting him [the teen] into the gang life,” said Keely.
Hynes also showed photos of a 2008 incident during which Quintero was arrested for a parole violation in connection with a drug and weapons seizure at a shed located one block from his house. The photos showed weapons, bags of marijuana and gang writing and graffiti. The word “untouchables,” which is the name of a Norteño clique, and the number 14 were written around the shed. The number 14 shows allegiance to the Norteños, said Keely, because “N” is the 14th letter in the alphabet. (Quintero was not charged with any crimes directly related to the drugs and weapons found in the shed.)
Hynes then showed a series of photographs featuring many of the other 40 alleged gang members named in the injunction. She asked Keely to define what was in each photo and explain how it was gang-related.
One photo showed three men standing together, one of them wearing a red t-shirt and holding up one finger on one hand and five on the other. The one and five stand for Quince (fifteen) a known Norteño clique, said Keely.
A few other photos showed tattoos on the arms and wrists of another alleged gang member. Written on his arm in cursive script was the phrase “38 Locos,” which Keely also identified as a known Norteño clique. On one wrist was a dot and on the other were four dots in the shape of a diamond, which represents the number 14, Keely said.
Several other photos showed alleged gang members’ tattoos with the phrases “Norte,” “Dirty 30’s,” “14,” “E. 7th,” “XIV,” all of which represent either the Norteños or cliques of the Norteños, said Keely. Other tattoos showed images of the barrel of a gun or the symbolic huelga bird, often associated with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, which Keely said Norteño gang members have appropriated as their own image.
When it was his turn to question Keely, defense attorney Dennis Cunningham raised the possibility that the tattoos were old and that the men shown in the photos are no longer gang members. He also pointed out that the image of the huelga bird is a pervasive symbol in the Fruitvale neighborhood and is not necessarily affiliated with gangs.
“Is there a mural of the huelga bird in Cesar Chavez park?” asked Cunningham.
“Yes,” Keely agreed.
“Huelga siempre,” said Cunningham. “I have no further questions, your Honor.”
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Freedman said he would allow the prosecution to bring in one more witness next week and then would draw a “virtual line” cutting off the testimonial period of the witnesses heard so far. He said that he is prepared to make a partial ruling, calling it “phase one,” in which he would decide whether to impose a preliminary injunction for Manzo, Quintero and the defendants not represented by the defense. “My goal is to conclude the evidence as to phase one,” the judge said. “The defendants who have testified up to this point.”
Judge Freedman said that he is considering holding a second phase of the hearing, which would include testimony from any other alleged gang member who wants the opportunity to take the stand. Until he rules in the first phase, it is unclear how a preliminary injunction will affect the remaining 31 defendants represented by the defense.
“This is an unprecedented situation. It’s very hard for the judge to move forward without giving everyone a chance to speak,” said defense attorney Michael Siegel after the hearing. “It’s 40 individuals who are named as individuals. If any of us had been named, we’d want a couple hours in court.”
The continuation of the preliminary hearing for the proposed Fruitvale gang injunction will continue on Tuesday, March 22 at 1:30 pm at the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.
Image: Norteño gang graffiti in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood. Photo by allaboutgeorge via Flickr Creative Commons.
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